The Conservative Manifesto will be launched next week. Although it is not yet in its final form, dramatic new announcements would be more likely to harm the election campaign than help it. The Cameron/Osborne/Crosby leadership team has decided, as the latter puts it, that one can’t fatten a pig on market day. So the main pledges have already been made – such as, for example, the proposed rise in the income tax threshold and cut in the 40p rate. Repeating them over and over again so that more voters know they’re there makes more sense than new promises rushed out at the last moment – and which voters are unlikely to absorb.
And enthusiastic as we are about ConservativeHome’s own manifesto, we couldn’t reasonably expect the Party to take it up entire now. To cite up one proposal almost at random, announcing the scrapping of HS2 at this moment in the electoral cycle would create more problems than it would solve.
We would make only three exceptions, and today flag up again the first of them – a Home Rule pledge for both Scotland and England (which we make no apology in returning to).
Over two in five Scots voted to leave the Union last September, and the SNP is set to do very well indeed on May 7 – even if Scottish Labour mounts a late fightback. It may be that there will no second referendum on independence for a long time – if at all – or that in such an eventuality Scotland again votes No. But it would be foolish to presume that either will be the case, and David Cameron ought at this election to be looking further ahead than a month’s time. The natural Conservative position now is to build on its own Strathclyde Commission and offer Scotland as close a settlement to Devo Max as can be practicably managed – with the same for England: in other words, English votes for English needs.